Back to School – Literally
By Troy Norling • Legacy Church • San Diego, California
Now that school’s back in session for most of the country, a good youth leader’s mind begins to look for ways to reach out to those places where young people spend their days: school campuses. Troy Norling has some good ideas about getting involved there.
For most of us, the students on the campuses we’re trying to reach aren’t just going to beat the doors of our churches down screaming, “LET ME IN!” So how do we reach them? We’re always telling our students to invite their friends to church, and many of them try to – but too often the response is still, “My friends don’t want to come to a church.”
One of the key ways to break that barrier down is to get into the lives of students where they are, on their campus. There are so many ways to get involved it’s almost a crime (or a sin?) if we don’t.
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Schools need volunteers to help with all kinds of extracurricular activities. Being in the position of a youth worker, you most likely have already been fingerprinted, background checked, etc. (If you haven’t, you should be.) Take that experience and meet with the principal of a school close to your church. Introduce yourself and share your willingness to be involved, without pushing any type of agenda, other than to want to be a positive influence on the campus.
If you have a skill in addition to that of being a youth leader, use it on the campus. Often, you can get hired as a school or district employee and even make an extra few bucks. What youth worker doesn’t need that?
Another key way to get plugged in is to see your students taking part in their area of interest. Have students in your ministry fill out “Come See Me!” cards with the dates and times of their performance, game, or activity. When you go to see your kids in their world, they feel special because you came to see them perform or play. You also earn their parents’ respect. Your students will be excited to introduce you to their friends – who are likely the very ones that “don’t want to go to church.” Once the friends have met you, and see how “cool” (more realistically, how non-scary) you are, they are more likely to accept an invitation to youth group.
The invitation from your student could now easily be, “Hey, remember when you met so-and-so at the game? That’s my youth leader at church. Wanna go with me sometime?” The invited friend will feel a little more at ease because he or she has met you. I can’t tell you how many students have started coming to youth group because I went to the Friday night football game and saw my students and their friends.
If you’re involved in a large ministry, try to get some of your volunteer staff involved in similar activity. You can’t be at every student’s game or performance, but imagine the potential for ministry when staff volunteers visit at least a couple of activities a month!
Regardless of your ministry’s size, don’t just leave it to someone else – get yourself on campus!